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I knew I probably wouldn’t be writing much in the weeks after Niko’s birth, but I had hoped that I would be able to come back and do a little bit of writing. I’d still like to get her birth story written out, but I’m putting that off a bit longer. Instead, I wanted to write about breastfeeding during Hannah’s first three weeks of life.
One of the first things Geordie and I talked about when we found out I was pregnant with Lauren was whether or not I would breastfeed. It didn’t involve a lot of discussion. Geordie was very supportive right from the start, and I knew that it would be the best thing for both her and me. I wasn’t sure if I’d like it, but I wanted to try it before I wrote it off completely. My mom had a hard time breastfeeding me, but I hoped that it would go smoother for me and Lauren.
In the end, of course, I never had the chance to breastfeed Lauren. I was given medication to keep my milk from coming in, which I was thankful for. The last thing I wanted was to have my milk come in when I had no baby to feed. But I did not give up on the idea of breastfeeding, so when I became pregnant with Hannah, the plan stayed the same. If it worked for us, than we would stick with it. I had a set goal of wanting to stick with breastfeeding for six months, but honestly, I wanted to go a whole year. I knew it would be challenging and that I’d have to be persistent, but it was what Geordie and I both wanted for Hannah.
And Hannah was all for it. More than one lactation consultant called her latch “textbook.” She latched immediately and nursed like a pro from the beginning. And – more surprisingly for me – I really enjoyed nursing. I didn’t exactly enjoy the getting up at all hours to feed her part of it, but once she was latched and nursing, it was terrific. It was hard, but I loved the closeness to her, I loved the feelings I got, I loved spending the time with her. I loved nursing more than I ever thought I could.
Then, on the 3rd, we took her to her first postpartum appointment and found out she’d dropped to 6 pounds, 3 ounces. [Her birth weight was 7lbs, 7oz; when we left the hospital, she was 6lbs, 14oz.] The midwife was concerned but not overly worried. She gave me all kinds of suggestions: hydrate well, eat often and at least 3000 calories per day, drink Mother’s Milk tea, rest whenever I wasn’t nursing, feed baby every two hours even if I had to wake her up – and usually we did have to wake her up. We left the birth center anxious but hopeful. The midwife told us to come back in a week for a weight check.
We did everything we had been told to do, plus more. We woke Hannah up every 2-3 hours to feed if she wasn’t demanding, and she fed well and long. I pumped just to make sure she was getting everything. We even called our insurance and ordered a better pump. We tracked feedings and diapers, and everything looked fine and healthy. She showed no signs of dehydration, her skin color was good, and her activity good. But when we went back on the 10th for a weight check, she had dropped to 5lbs, 13oz. The midwives were no longer just mildly concerned. They recommended a lactation consultant. They told us to take her to her pediatrician. They told me that I was not “broken” and that formula was not necessarily in her our future but that we needed to take action. I fed her at the birth center, crying the entire time, and Geordie called the LC and arranged for her to make a house call.
The LC did her best not to panic us, but she was clearly thrown off by how much Hannah had lost. Admitting Hannah to the hospital was discussed. Fortunately, the LC works closely with the pediatrician we had chosen, and she contacted him (Geordie had already made an appointment for the next day), and he felt that it was not that serious and that if we supplemented with formula and fed her through the night, she could wait until the morning appointment. That’s what we decided to do. The LC had me nurse Hannah so she could observe and determine if anything was wrong. Again, Hannah did her job wonderfully. But when she was weighed again, the LC said she’d only taken in a half an ounce of milk during a thirty minute feed. She told me bluntly but kindly that she thought the problem was my supply. Unfortunately, it wasn’t simply a matter of building it up and getting it to sufficient levels – she told me she thought the problem was Insufficient Glandular Tissue, also known as hypoplasia. As she put it, I just don’t have the “factory works” to make enough milk to fully nourish my baby. It’s a real thing, and there isn’t much I can do about it. Supplementation was, and continues to be, our only option.
When we took Hannah to the pediatrician on the 11th, he agreed with the LC’s “diagnosis,” that the problem was my supply. I stopped nursing her directly because it was so much effort for so little. We bottlefed her what I pumped, but it showed how little milk I was producing; I got barely 3oz of milk a day. Once we started on the formula, Hannah started improving almost immediately. Her weight gain was slow, but that was to be expected, given what she had lost. We had daily weigh-ins at the doctor’s office until the 16th, when she was back up to 6lbs, 13oz. We did have to switch her from a milk-based formula to a soy-based one because of telltale milk allergy signs, but since then, she’s continued to do well. For the first time in two weeks, I feel like she’s getting all the nutrition she needs.
I just wish that she was getting it from me. As much as I don’t want to, I’m allowing my milk to dry up. I hate pumping. It’s cold and unfeeling and unpleasant. It’s one of the more depressing things I have ever had to do, especially considering the meager amount of milk that results from it. Every time I pumped, it reminded me of how little I was doing for my daughter. I could tell myself over and over that even a little bit of breast milk was better than none, but the truth was that it only made me feel worse. It reminded me that, once again, I was failing my child. There is still a deep part of me that feels guilty over Lauren’s death, that feels that my body is to blame. This just added to it.
So, I’m giving up on breastfeeding. It’s not what I want to do, but it’s what I feel I have to do, if just for the sake of my mental and emotional health. I wish it wasn’t happening this way; I miss nursing Hannah, even those times in the middle of the night when I could barely keep myself awake. And I’m sad that I can’t give her what would normally be the best thing for her right now. But she’s getting better with the formula and gaining the weight that she needs, and that’s the most important thing to me. If this is what’s best for my daughter right now, then it’s what I’ll do. As long as she’s happy and healthy, that’s the best thing for both of us.
Lauren never got to go to the beach. Hoping that I can bring Niko back again next year.
It’s been a long time since I did a Q&A. This one from love is blonde seemed like a good thing to do. She had a lot to celebrate as 2012 came to an end; I hope 2013 is our year to celebrate.
1. What did you do in 2012 that you’d never done before?
I traveled to Massachusetts and met my husband’s extended family. I’d never been to New England before. Geordie’s family is great, very loving and very kind to us, but also very boisterous and alive. I like that about them. They take care of each other, which is one of the most important things about being a family. I think Geordie and I are both pretty lucky in how supportive our families were this past year. We needed that.
2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for this year?
Kinda and yes. I kept some resolutions. Others kinda fell to the wayside a bit. But I never really gave up on them. It’s just that some of them didn’t need doing anymore. So, I’m making resolutions for 2013. They have nothing to do with becoming a new person, just about being a better me. I’ll probably be posting those tomorrow. One thing’s for certain – I want to blog more in 2013 than I did in 2012.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
My cousin’s second child arrived in March. He arrived a little earlier than he should have, but both he and my cousin’s wife made it safely through the delivery, and he’s a good-looking healthy boy now. I’ve also seen a number of my fellow babyloss mamas give birth to rainbow children, which is beyond awesome. I’m getting better at looking at baby pictures, and it can be quite comforting to see their little rainbows and know that there’s hope for us this year.
4. Did anyone close to you die?
Geordie’s aunt died on May 1st, before I’d had a chance to meet her. I wish I had been able to – she is much loved and much missed by her family. It was totally unexpected; she was only in her 40′s, just a handful of years older than Geordie. Also, one of my great-uncles on my father’s side died in late October. He was much older, but the death was still sudden.
5. What countries did you visit?
None other than the US. Too bad. And we don’t really have any plans for going out of country this year.
6. What would you like to have in 2013 that you didn’t have in 2012?
A baby. Since we don’t plan on actively trying to conceive until March or April, it seems unlikely that will happen. I’ll settle for a pregnancy.
7. What dates will be etched upon your memory, and why?
May 1st, the day Geordie’s aunt died. I was stuck in bed with a stomach illness for much of it, but I remember how this family came together to comfort each other and provide support. It was a tragic thing to witness, but also very beautiful. Also, the days we spent at Mt. Washington celebrating our first anniversary, how carefree and happy we were. It was exactly what we needed. And, of course, the Birthday Fiesta o’ Fun.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Maybe this will seem silly, but the roasting of the birds. Before 2012, I had never roasted a whole bird. Now, I’ve successfully roasted chicken, duck, and turkey. I never realized how simple it would be.
9. What was your biggest failure?
Honesty, I’m having a hard time answering this one. I don’t feel like I failed much at anything this year. Everyone says that you need to be gentle with yourself when you’re mourning, and I’ve tried to do that. I’ve tried not to push myself too much, to do only that which I know I can do. I feel bad about not blogging much over the summer, but it just wasn’t what I needed to do at the time. I wish I had spent more time making Lauren’s quilt, but it’s been difficult to work on. I’m hoping to get more done with it this year.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
11. What was the best thing you bought?
We didn’t make any major purchases last year, so I’m having a hard time coming up with “the best thing.” We adopted the kittens. They’re pretty cool.
12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
All our family and friends. The support we have received in the past year has been amazing.
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
The financial aid lady from the Art Institute.
14. Where did most of your money go?
Into the move to San Antonio. Well worth it.
15. What did you get really excited about?
The Birthday Fiesta o’ Fun, the joint birthday party Heather and I throw for ourselves. It was our first since 2009, and it was possibly the best every. We’re going to have to work hard to top it this year.
16. What song will always remind you of 2012?
“Gangnam Style.” I like this song, though I can’t really figure out why. I just like it.
17. Compared to this time last year, are you a) happier or sadder, b) thinner or fatter, c) richer or poorer?
Happier, I think. A little more at peace with things.
Pretty much the same, actually. I wish I could say thinner, but that’s better than the alternative.
Richer, seeing as how we’ve got an income and all.
18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Writing. Like, serious novel writing.
19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Sitting around and doing nothing. Though, to be fair, that can be pretty therapeutic.
20. How did you spend Christmas?
Quietly, at home, with family. The best way to spend Christmas.
21. Did you fall in love in 2012?
I could go with the sappy answer and say I fell in love with Geordie all over again, but to me, that feels like an implication that I fell out of love with him. And that simply didn’t happen. Though, I could honestly say I love him more than ever.
22. What was your favorite TV program?
“Chopped.” I watched the Food Network pretty exclusively last year. And even that stopped when we moved to San Antonio and never bought a TV. Now we have one, but no cable (by choice). We’re sticking with Netflix and working our way through “Law & Order.”
23. What was the best book you read?
The “Hunger Games” series. I probably liked “Mockingjay” best, but you’ve really got to take them as a whole. There’s a lot to like about them, but it’s the twisting together of despair and hope that make them work so well for me. I loved the epilogue, that the main character felt the effects of her life far into adulthood but still managed to claim some happiness. She didn’t just get better; she learned to live with it. I know what it means to do that.
24. What was your greatest musical discovery?
I only recently started listening to the radio again. I haven’t been much interested in music since Lauren died. But I like fun., especially their song “Carry On.” Again, it’s that message of hope amidst despair.
25. What did you want and get?
A job for Geordie, a home of our own, two adorable kittens, some stability, a little peace of mind. I would have liked to have gotten pregnant, but that really wasn’t feasible in 2012. We’re leaving that for 2013.
26. What did you want and not get?
That pregnancy I mentioned. Other than that, not much.
27. What was your favorite film of 2012?
In regards to released in theaters in 2012, I saw only one – “The Hunger Games,” which I enjoyed, but not as much as the book. I’ve rather lost interest in seeing movies in theaters. I’ve been disappointed by too many of them in recent years.
28. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 31. How strange it is. But I celebrated it the best way possible, with BFF Heather (whose birthday is a day after mine). Years ago, we started the tradition of the Birthday Fiesta o’ Fun, during which we cook a huge meal and feed it to our guests. Our theme this year was “Apple,” which worked wonderfully.
29. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
If Geordie had gotten this job sooner. Not to complain. It’s a good job, and we’re lucky to be happy where we are. But it would have been nicer to be secure sooner. But then we wouldn’t have had so much time to spend in Massachusetts, so that’s okay too.
30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept of 2012?
Flatlined. I have clothes that fit me. I bought what I needed. That is all.
31. What kept you sane?
Geordie. I would not have made it through this year without him. He is what makes life worth living.
32. What political issue stirred you the most?
Debates over who has control over reproduction. That decision belongs to each individual person, not to third-parties who have no knowledge of the particular circumstances. And that’s all I’ll say about it.
33. Who do you miss?
Lauren. Every single day.
34. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012.
Life doesn’t stop because of tragedy. It pauses a while, but it goes on. You can take a break from life when you need to, but you can’t give up on it. And you can’t expect others to pause when or as long as you do. It’ll keep going without you.
35. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
“When you’re lost and alone/or you’re sinking like a stone,/carry on.”
36. What else will always remind you of 2012?
Everything. I can’t see how I could forget the first full year we spent without Lauren. There will be so many years to follow, but 2012 was the first. It was so hard, but we survived it. That’s all there is to it.
Happy 2013, folks. I hope it’s a good one.